CARACAS, Venezuela — The United States often takes a leading role in calling out the world’s most dangerous places, warning its people about the risks of traveling to countries that are at war, under terrorist threats, experiencing civil unrest or displaying significant anti-American sentiment.
The latest mass shootings have triggered a sharp role reversal, with three countries warning their citizens about the risks of traveling to the U.S.
Venezuela, Uruguay and Japan issued warnings to varying degrees following the deaths of 31 people over the weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Each warning noted U.S. gun violence, and at least one was laced with a dose of political payback.
Without directly naming President Donald Trump, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blamed the surge in violence on speeches emanating from Washington that are “impregnated with racial discrimination and hatred against immigrants.”
The socialist Maduro is ruling over the worst economic crisis in Venezuelan history amid an escalating political battle with the White House, which backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s bid to oust him.
Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt said Venezuela’s warning came off more like a “political jab” than a genuine concern for its citizens’ safety. It came hours before Trump signed an executive order that hit Maduro’s government with yet another round of punishing financial sanctions designed to end his rule.
The State Department is obligated to inform the public about potential threats under a “no double standard” rule that calls for such information to be shared equally with government employees as well as the public.
The U.S. denies that any of its travel warnings are politically motivated, but that does not stop frequent complaints from foreign countries. The impact of an advisory that warns Americans against traveling to a certain country can be significant, particularly if that country relies heavily on tourism for revenue.
U.S. tour agencies, colleges and universities often cancel group trips to countries that the department has warned against visiting, largely because it can become more difficult or expensive for them get insurance.
In the State Department travel advisory system, every country gets an advisory ranging from level one, recommending Americans exercise normal precautions, to the maximum level four, which unambiguously warns: “Do not travel.” Thirteen countries are currently under the highest U.S. travel advisory, including Afghanistan, North Korea and Syria.
Venezuela also advanced to this highest warning level in April, after the U.S. evacuated its embassy. American Airlines, the last U.S. carrier to make the three-hour trip between Caracas and Miami, suspended its flights, citing concerns by the pilots’ union.
Urugay’s foreign minister on Monday urged people traveling to the U.S. to avoid large gatherings, such as amusement parks and sporting events “given the authorities’ inability to prevent these situations” involving firearms.